Intel and Amazon Ramp Up Federal Business and Lobbying

Intel and Amazon, both of which have recently raised their federal profiles, have also ramped up their lobbying budgets, according to a research firm that tracks lobbyists and their clients.

Intel, which recently spun off a new enterprise to focus solely on its federal business, spent nearly $2 million on lobbying in the first half of 2011 while Amazon, which

launched a government-only cloud in August, spent over $1 million on lobbying during the same period, according to a report compiled by First Street, a division of CQ Press that tracks lobbying expenditures.

"During the first two quarters of 2011, the companies hired a combined 14 different lobbying firms and have over 60 lobbyists working on their behalf," the report said. The report went on to speculate whether that "large amount of recent lobbying activity [would] help them secure new government work?"

The amount Intel spends on lobbying jumped dramatically between 2008 and 2009 -- from about $2.2 million for all of 2008 to about $3.9 million for all of 2009 -- but has stayed relatively steady since, according to additional data provided by First Street. Amazon's lobbying payments jumped similarly, from about $1.3 million in 2008 to about $1.8 million in 2009.

That jump was likely due to major legislation before Congress in 2009 and 2010, such as healthcare reform and financial regulation, as much or more than to the companies' rising federal profiles, First Street analyst Alex Bronstein-Moffly speculated.

"That's just my opinion," Bronstein-Moffly said. "All these companies pay for health insurance and a lot of legislation in the financial world would definitely have an impact on them. Amazon does almost all its business over the Internet so, say, a new fee on credit card or debit card transactions would definitely affect it. And Intel, just because of its size, will be affected by almost anything."

Bronstein-Moffly cautioned against reading a direct correlation between a company's lobbying footprint and how much it sells to the federal government. One can often prove valuable leverage for the other, though, he said.

"I don't think you'd hear anyone say the only reason they're picking up lobbyists is to sell to federal agencies," he said. "But companies certainly expand their lobbying footprint because issues come up that they care about and an expanding government sector is one of those."

Having one kind of relationship with lawmakers and staff can also help companies to establish other relationships.

"DC is a town of relationships," he said. "It's easier to pitch someone on a business if you already knew them in the past."

Bronstein-Moffly has seen a general upward trend in the amount of money technology firms are spending on lobbying, he said, but it's less clear if there's an upward trend in the amount of those firms' money that's going to appropriations bills and other bills of interest to government vendors.

CQ Press, which launched First Street in January, is owned by Sage Publications.

The division was formerly the research arm of CQ Weekly magazine, a capital mainstay that was sold to The Economist Group after its non-profit publisher hit tough financial times in 2009.